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Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has 143 wins under his belt at the University of Iowa, one away from the all-time record.

The Gazette will count down each win, as ranked by writer Marc Morehouse.

52

When the 2004 Iowa RB thing was happening

Iowa 38, Michigan State 16 | Oct. 2, 2004

Iowa running back Jermelle Lewis is helped off the field after an injury in the second quarter of a game against Michigan State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2004. (The Gazette)
Iowa running back Jermelle Lewis is helped off the field after an injury in the second quarter of a game against Michigan State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2004. (The Gazette)
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Three cool things:

1. This was the ugly first cut during the ACL disasters of 2004.

Marcus Schnoor, Albert Young and Jermelle Lewis did suffer ACL injuries. Marques Simmons didn’t suffer his ankle injury until a game or two after this one.

This was Simmons’ hello. He transferred to Iowa from Nebraska. The Davenport native gave Iowa a close look in recruiting, but Iowa was 4-19 at the time and the Huskers weren’t.

Kinnick had regular turf at this time. I think the uneven surfaces played into this tidal wave of the same injury happening to the same position.

I don’t remember Schnoor and Young going down as well as I remember Lewis.

Iowa is a program that values its seniors. The kids who put in four or five years have a say. It might be like if you take German for four years, you get to go on the senior trip to Gstaad. Even if you got a C, you spent your time in German. Come and get your reward.

Lewis had to wait for the seniors to clear out. Was he a more intriguing running back prospect than Fred Russell? Yes. I think Fred Russell also would say that.

This was going to be Lewis’ year. He was going to have 1,200 yards and maybe 15 TDs. He was going to have that until he went down on the north side of the 50.

It was the second time I found myself trying to track down a quote from Lewis while he was on crutches at Kinnick. Wasn’t the way it was supposed to go for the guy.

Yes, maybe I’m overdramatizing. This was, however, the last day of Lewis’ Iowa career. You never want those to end on crutches.

2. Notice, no mention of Sam Brownlee. Not yet.

3. Hey, this was kind of a good week for the person I think will be your future head coach.

Brian Ferentz had a knee surgery going into the 2004 season that was complicated by an infection of staphylococcus bacteria.

“What we do is we play football and it’s nothing more than that,” Ferentz said. “There are far worse problems out there than blowing your knee out.”

Ferentz started at right guard in this game, the first time he’d played since injuring his MCL in October 2003. He missed five games in 2002 and six games in 2003, both because of knee injuries. Early in the spring of 2004, Ferentz had surgery to clean up some cartilage damage in the knee.

That’s when the staph hit. The infection worsened and, according to his dad, amputation of the joint was a possibility.

“When we were informed of the potential options, it put everything right back into perspective,” Kirk Ferentz said. “You just hoped that he had a healthy leg and was able to play with his kids when he’s 40.

“But everything worked out according to plan. He has not incurred any major setbacks, which were a possibility and remain a possibility. The biggest things were his attitude and perseverance. He was just determined to make it back this season.”

Brian Ferentz wasn’t always sure he’d make it back to the field. Three weeks earlier, though, he said he regained confidence in the knee and thought he had a realistic shot to return before the season ended.

“It feels good to get back out there and hit somebody,” Ferentz said. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

Ferentz helped Iowa to 464 yards of offense, its best offensive game of the season to that point. He hadn’t played guard since his senior year at Iowa City High.

“It’s kind of nice to go out there, put your hand down and not worry about snapping the ball,” Ferentz said. “We all know I had some problems with that last year in this game. You just go out there and block people. It’s kind of nice. You don’t think a lot, which is good for me.”

“I think I learned a pretty valuable lesson, my family learned a lesson, about taking your health for what it’s worth — it’s pretty valuable,” Brian Ferentz said. “On the flip side, I had an infection in my leg — I wasn’t battling cancer.

“Being in the hospital helps you really understand what’s important. When you go to the second floor of the hospital, you’ve got kids there that might not make it out of that ward ever, and they’re just as optimistic as can be. It’s a good life lesson.

“Was it painful? Was I worried about my health? Yeah. But it could have been a hell of a lot worse.”

Quote: “It’s next man in. I’m just not sure who that is outside of Marques.” — Kirk Ferentz on Iowa’s dwindling RB situation in 2004

Note: I checked the follow-up to this one. Still no Sam Brownlee mention.

Why No. 52? — If you remember this one, it’s probably for the wrong reasons (the injury at RB).

PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF THE GAME

Game story from 2004

IOWA CITY — From here on out, it’s Stanley Cup treatment for Iowa running backs.

You know Stanley Cup treatment. When the National Hockey League gets down to its championship clincher, you start to see the guys who take care of the Stanley Cup, the NHL’s holy grail.

They wear white gloves when they take the silver chalice out of its black case. The league is very protective. No harm will come to the cup.

It’s Stanley Cup treatment time for Iowa’s running backs.

Senior Jermelle Lewis suffered a sprained right knee in the Hawkeyes’ 38-16 victory over Michigan State before 70,397 fans Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) gained confidence on offense, which churned out 464 yards — mostly on the arm of sophomore quarterback Drew Tate — and scored touchdowns on two of its first three possessions to take control over hapless Michigan State (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten).

Tate completed 25 of 36 for 340 yards and a touchdown. It was the first 300-plus yard performance for an Iowa quarterback since Jon Buetjer went for 380 against Indiana in 2000.

With running backs tearing ACLs every time they turn around, Tate’s learning curve bows by the down.

“It’s everyone’s offense,” Tate said. “Everyone plays a role in everything we do. From the right guard to the wideout to me to the tight end, everyone. I think I’m doing a better job every week of running the offense, but I’ve got help from 10 other guys.”

Lewis, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in March ‘03, seemed resigned to the possibility he tore his ACL again.

“There’s a good chance it’s a sprain,” said Lewis, who seemed in good spirits as he walked on crutches after the game. “I can’t tell. I don’t know what happened.”

The MRI will come Monday, but Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz seemed resigned to losing a third running back this season to an ACL injury. Junior Marcus Schnoor tore an ACL in the opener against Kent State. Freshman Albert Young did it against Iowa State.

“It hurts the football team, but more importantly it’s a tough thing for Jermelle,” Ferentz said. “It puts a damper on things a little bit. He’s a strong guy. He’ll bounce back.”

And now at Iowa running back, it’s junior Marques Simmons.

“It’s next man in,” Ferentz said. “I’m just not sure who that is outside of Marques.”

With the injuries to the running backs and inexperience on the offensive line, it’s becoming more and more clear that Iowa’s offense will run through Tate. Iowa coaches know this and aren’t shying away from leaning on a 6-foot, 185-pound quarterback.

They decided Tuesday that Saturday was going to be throw first, run maybe. On Iowa’s first drive, Michigan State put eight defenders near the line of scrimmage and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe made the Spartans pay.

The Hawkeyes didn’t even genuflect to the run. Tate completed 4 of 5 and moved the Hawkeyes to MSU’s 47. From there, it was Lewis circa 2002. He broke a tackle and some attack angles for a 47-yard TD and a 7-0 Iowa lead less than 4 minutes into the game.

This was a huge deal for a running back and offensive line under fire all season. And, pending the MRI, it might’ve been Lewis’ second-to-last carry in an Iowa uniform. If Iowa’s depth chart at running back was any thinner, it’d be a supermodel.

Simmons moves into the starter’s role. He began the season No. 4. He began his college career at Nebraska, transferring to Iowa last summer. He began this season suspended one game for a drunken-driving arrest.

When Simmons celebrated a 7-yard run in the third quarter, you can kind of see why. It was a lot more than just a 7-yard run.

“It was a release,” said Simmons, who finished with 13 carries for 47 yards and TD runs of 1 and 2 yards. “It just feels good to get out there and run. Do something positive for the team.”

Tate fueled Iowa’s second scoring drive, going 5-for-5 for 62 yards and finishing with a 15-yarder to Ed Hinkel for a 14-0 lead with 3:11 left in the first quarter. Tate completed 10 straight passes in the third quarter, when Iowa expanded a 17-6 halftime lead to 24-6 on fullback Tom Busch’s 3-yard run. It was the third time Tate completed 10 or more consecutive passes in a game.

Tate showed a lot of football sense, stringing plays to the sidelines and buying himself time. He also made like a point guard, distributing short, efficient passes in the cracks of MSU’s defense.

“We’ve got a great leader with Drew Tate at quarterback,” wideout Clinton Solomon said. “If we get open, he’s going to get the ball to us.”

The Hawkeyes threw the ball on every first down in the first half. Iowa ran the play-action fake bootleg and made it work at will. The Spartans, who put up 449 yards of total offense, will see the play-action bootleg in their sleep.

“I thought their plan was good — they play-actioned the snot out of us and it got them into good situations,” MSU Coach John L. Smith said. “Second down and one? That’s a good situation.”

But it’s not Tate’s offense. It’s everyone’s offense.

“I don’t know if it’s his offense. I think all of us have a little ownership here,” Ferentz said. “Anytime you’re playing offensive football, if your quarterback doesn’t give you a chance, you’re in trouble.

“And I think Drew does that, he’s learning better how to give us a chance.”

Tate, who had three of Iowa’s five turnovers last week against Michigan, used eight receivers. Hinkel caught seven for 98 yards and a TD. Solomon had a career day, four receptions for 105 yards.

Iowa had passing plays of 44, 43 and 28 yards.

“He’s so confident in what he does and he’s so good at what he does,” said Hinkel of Tate. “He can put the ball in a perfect spot every time.”

When it’s Simmons and Super Glue at running back, it’s pretty much Tate’s offense. Even if it isn’t, it is.